Tag Archive 'Canada geese'

Dec 04 2017

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Geese Lingering

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A couple weeks ago I noticed that about fifty Canada geese had taken up temporary residence in a nearby quarry. Last week I saw them there again, only their numbers had increased to well over a hundred. Yesterday they were still floating on those placid waters, but this time I counted two hundred of them. What’s up with that? Why haven’t they all gone south by now?

Oh sure, the first two snowfalls of the year didn’t amount to much and they melted off quickly, but it’s December for chrissakes. No matter how mild a winter it’s going to be, northern Vermont is not far enough south for them. Or is it?

I am inclined to seriously question this notion we have of instinct. If wild creatures blindly follow instinct, then why aren’t these geese hundreds of miles south of here? Do they have enough intelligence to make a serious error in judgement?

There is another possibility of course. The birds might know something that we don’t, although the word “know” might not be the best way to explain what’s going on here. We’re the knowing ones – Homo sapiens and all that. Their relationship to the natural world is quite different from ours. So then… who’s making the serious error in judgement here, them or us?

I watched the geese for a while, admiring their wild beauty. They were smart enough to keep a good distance away from me even though I posed no real threat to them. I’m still expecting winter to strike with a vengeance soon. I hope these waterfowl are gone by then. Whether they depart or not, they have already given me much food for thought. Perhaps I will soon know what’s going on.



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Apr 17 2009

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The Fever Strikes

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Even though I had the house all closed up yesterday morning, I could hear a cardinal singing loud and clear from its treetop perch.  I didn’t dare look out the window because I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the blue sky.  I was hellbent upon getting various literary tasks done before noon, but it seemed rather foolish to write about the natural world while it was springing back to life just beyond my walls.  What would Thoreau do?  Eventually, I stuffed a compass in my pocket, slipped on my hike boots, and headed for the hills.  No doubt my dog, Matika, wondered why it had taken me so long to do so.

After watching a big old turkey crossing the road, I stepped into the woods.  I needed to hear the high-pitched symphony of spring peepers and had in mind a beaver pond where I was sure to find them.  Just before leaving the last semblance of a trail, I spotted coltsfoot in full bloom – not all that unusual in mid-April.  But the spring beauty that I found a few minutes later took me completely by surprise.  A week early, at least.  I dropped down to my knees and snorted the flower as a drug fiend snorts cocaine.  The result was just as narcotic.

I flushed two deer from a streambed while bushwhacking through some brambles.  Matika immediately chased after them but turned around when I called her back.  Good dog (sort of).  We hopped over the stream and continued deeper into the woods, skirting the beaver pond.  Its shimmering waters were clearly visible through the naked trees, but I wanted to reach a favorite spot on the pond’s opposite shore.  That would take some doing.

My passage through the forest wasn’t very direct.  I traveled from one patch of green to another, looking for more signs of the season.  I found a few mottled trout lily leaves springing forth, then stumbled into some fresh leeks.  I chewed a leek just for the sharp sting of it to my palette.  Matika sniffed the tracks of animals that had passed this way recently.  We reached the far side of the pond sooner than expected.

A Canada goose honked as we approached the pond’s marshy shoreline.  There I sat on a fallen tree, with Matika resting by my side, long enough for the peepers to resume their trilling.  They had fallen silent during our approach but started up again once we were quiet and still.  The goose floated closer, honking continuously as if to evict us.  She eventually got her way.  Matika and I moved away after the peeper chorus had sufficiently scrambled my brains.

A few wood frogs croaked from an ephemeral pool that we passed on the way out.  They stopped as soon as I went over to inspect their haunt.  I searched for more wildflowers in bloom but found none.  No matter.  An unblinking sun burned high in the sky and all I could think was this: How lucky I am to be alive on such a beautiful day.  I drove home slowly, very slowly, irritating the other drivers on the road who had places to go and things to do.  Too bad I couldn’t have walked home.  I really shouldn’t have been behind the steering wheel of a car in my condition.

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Oct 23 2008

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A Dismal Day

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Just past noon I left the house dressed in heavy boots, wools and rain gear.  The sky was steel gray and rain was falling steadily as it had been since daybreak.  It was one of those dreary autumn days when the chill in the air and the distinct lack of light reminds you that the warm season has ended and winter isn’t far away.  My thoughts ran as gray as the day.  I parked my car on the edge of town then stepped onto the Rail Trail with my head down.  I was brooding about all manner of troubles, ranging from the personal to the global.  I had plenty of material to work with.

Matika bounded down the stony path completely oblivious to the rain or my funky mood.  She sniffed at the grass along the edge of the trail, checked her p-mail, then bolted thirty yards just for the sheer joy of running.  I ignored her.

Gray is the best word to describe how I was feeling.  I was neither happy nor sad but teetering between the two, subconsciously trying to decide which way to fall.  The view across the fields seemed to match my mood.  The somber colors of the advanced season – burnt orange, rust, faded yellow and brown – dominated the nearby hills.  But here and there through the mist a burst of brilliant gold defied the otherwise somber landscape.  Yeah, it could go either way.

I slowly picked up my pace as I walked.  What started as a casual stroll became a forced march.  I shot past a mile marker where I usually turn around, crossed a road and kept going.  I got it in my head that enough sweat would swing my mood to the positive.  I’d been here before and that’s usually how things went.  But this time I just kept walking as my knitted brow strained against the cold drizzle.

Suddenly I stopped to look around.  A dead oak stood alone in a bright green cow pasture.  Beyond it a little color burst from an otherwise dark brown woodlot.  On the other side of the trail, a cornfield recently cleared of its bounty had been plowed over.  Beyond that rose those misty hills.  The clouds overhead seemed close enough to touch.  A dismal day to be sure, yet I felt strangely comfortable in it.  Glad I hadn’t stayed indoors.

Just then wave after wave of Canada geese flew past in long, undulating Vs.  There were hundreds of them, headed south at first then turning around – a great swirl of honking and wing flapping.  As I watched them turn, I couldn’t help but feel blessed by their presence.  Then it occurred to me how fortunate I was to be walking through this rural landscape despite the rain.  I turned around then kept walking.  Matika followed.  The geese landed in the barren cornfield next to the trail and nature’s endless cycles seemed palpable.  Another day, another season, and on and on like that into eternity.

While finishing the walk, I told my dog that life is good.  She responded with the big, dopey grin that all creatures living in the moment display when things are going well.  That was confirmation enough.  So I ambled the last half mile as slow as possible just make it last.  I was sweaty, chilled, and a little achy by the time I reached the car.  Matika was completely soaked.  But neither one of us could have been any happier.

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